Depressed sad old man

Harvard doctors find link between certain diets, depression and frailty

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Inflammatory diets typically include small amounts of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods and large amounts of commercial baked goods, fried foods, and fatty meats.

The effects of dietary inflammation on frailty and other health problems may be more pronounced in depressed middle-aged and older adults.

According to recently published in Journal of Gerontology: Medicine, there is a link between the development of depression, diet and frailty. Frailty affects 10-15% of older adults and often co-occurs with other medical conditions, such as depression. It is characterized by an identifiable state of high vulnerability due to the loss of function of multiple physiological systems. The development of frailty is thought to be significantly influenced by diet.

Previous research has shown a correlation between an inflammatory diet, including man-made trans fats (such as partially hydrogenated oils), refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats, and the risk of frailty. However, this is one of the first studies to attempt to understand the effects of depression on dietary inflammation and debilitating conditions.

The researchers wanted to determine whether those with depressive symptoms were more likely to be debilitated by dietary inflammation. The Framingham Heart Study Offspring Cohort provided the data used in the study. 1,701 non-frail individuals provided information about their diet and depressive symptoms at the start of the study. When frailty was reassessed, they were followed for about 11 years.

The study found a link between an inflammatory diet and an increased risk of frailty, which was more pronounced in individuals with depressive symptoms. The researchers believe that because people who experience depressive symptoms often have higher levels of inflammation, adding dietary inflammation to this may accelerate the onset of debilitating symptoms.

Dr. Courtney L Millar, a postdoctoral fellow at the Marcus Institute on Aging, the Hebrew Institute for Advanced Living, and Harvard Medical School is the first author. “This study found that depressive symptoms may exacerbate the development of frailty in response to an inflammatory diet. This suggests that eating a diet rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, such as fiber and plant-based compounds called flavonoids, may help prevent Weak development,” Dr Miller said.

“Our exploratory data also suggest that when middle-aged and older adults eat a pro-inflammatory diet, they are more likely to develop new depressive symptoms and frailty together, rather than either in isolation,” she added.

This study follows two previous studies conducted by Dr Millar, one of which was published in May 2022

Reference: “Association of Proinflammatory Diet With Frailty Onset Among Adults With and Without Depressive Symptoms: Results From the Framingham Offspring Study” by Courtney L Millar, Ph.D., Alyssa B Dufour, Ph.D., James R Hebert, DSc, Nitin Shivappa, Ph.D., Olivia I Okereke, MD, MS, Douglas P Kiel, MD, MPH, Marian T Hannan, DSc, MPH and Shivani Sahni, Ph.D., 13 July 2022, Journal of Gerontology.
DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glac140

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging, the Beth and Richard Applebaum Research Fund, and the Boston Claude D. Pepper Center OAIC. 

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